First off, let me point out that raw denim is not necessarily selvedge denim, and selvedge denim by no means is always raw denim.
Initially known as ‘self-edge’, the selvedge is the narrow, tightly woven band on both edges of the denim fabric. A selvedge end prevents the edge of the denim from unraveling and shows a clean, finished look. Old shuttle looms produce denim where selvedges are closed.
We asked our friend, Maurice Mallone, owner and creator of Williamsburg Garment Company:
“To know what raw jeans are, you must first know what raw denim is. Raw denim is simply denim fabric that has not been washed, dyed, soaked or touched by water after the manufacturing process. The best of which is often stiff and hard to the touch, while lower quality most often tends to lean on the softer less rigid side.
What makes the denim raw has nothing to do with the color, weight, maker or dye. The internet is full of “raw denim” headlines by denim novices – although some produced by popular publications with good writers, they often go into talking about pre-washed jeans, causing confusion to beginners seeking good information.
Not to be confused with selvedge denim (but often is), raw, is also referred to as dry or hard denim. In the photo below, we give you examples of the two types of raw denim fabric, which denim clothing is made.
Selvedge denim in the foreground, most popular amongst denim heads, and wide goods or non-selvedge (has frayed edge) in the background.